Austin to operate on record $4.2 billion municipal budget following near-unanimous City Council adoption

Austin City Council passed a record $4.2 billion budget with a 10-1 vote on Sept. 10.

Austin City Council passed a record $4.2 billion budget with a 10-1 vote on Sept. 10.

The city of Austin will operate on its largest budget to date following near-unanimous approval from Austin City Council Sept. 10.

Austin City Council passed the $4.2 billion budget for fiscal year 2019-20 with a 10-1 vote, with District 6 Council Member Jimmy Flannigan casting the lone objection. The approved budget boasts a $1.1 billion general fund—the portion funded mostly through property tax revenue—and provides a record $62.7 million allocation for homelessness initiatives. It covers the cost of 30 new police officers and sends an additional $14.4 million to the city’s housing trust fund, which supports affordable housing construction and acquisition.

The tax rate has been proposed at 44.31 cents per $100 of assessed property valuation, up from last year’s 44.03 cents. For the owner of a $353,265 valued home—the citywide median—this translates to a $1,565 annual city property tax bill—$130.42 per month—up from $1,463 last year.

For those who qualify for the city’s 10% homestead exemption, the annual tax bill slips to $1,409—$117.42 per month—an increase over last year’s annual bill of $1,317. The new tax bills represent monthly increases of $8.50 for non-homesteads and $7.67 per month for homestead properties.

Last year, city property taxes on the typical median homeowner with a 10% homestead exemption jumped $67. The $92 increase in this year’s budget reflects City Council’s move to increase property tax revenue to the legal maximum of 8%, as this budget is the last before new state-mandated 3.5% property tax revenue caps take hold.

With the impending 3.5% revenue caps, city staff has projected future budget deficits starting in fiscal year 2021-22 at $7.1 million and reaching $26.5 million by fiscal year 2023-24. Following his lone objection to this year’s budget, Flannigan said he was concerned that City Council was failing to look out for the city’s long-term fiscal health and said he was worried about staff’s deficit projections.

Flannigan unsuccessfully tried to transfer an additional $2.5 million into the city’s savings account; however, the city maintained its fiscal policy of keeping equal to 12% of its general fund in its savings account—roughly $132 million.

City Council adopted the budget and voted to ratify the 44.31 cents per $100 valuation tax rate, but it cannot officially adopt the tax rate until Sept. 25. Austin’s deputy chief financial officer, Ed Van Eenoo said the volume of protests waged against the Travis County Appraisal District this year held it from validating the tax rolls in time, rendering the city unable to set an exact tax rate and hold public hearings before budget passage. The city will hold the public hearings on Sept. 13 and 19, although, with the budget already passed based on the 44.31-cent tax rate, Van Eenoo said they would be “kind of pointless” but required by law.

Other highlights of the budget include additional money toward mental health response during emergency calls and retrofitting a property in the Del Valle area to act as a fully-staffed temporary fire station until the permanent station’s construction is completed in June. Taxpayers will also put up an additional $1 million to fund the testing of sexual assault kits, $2.5 million for a wildfire prevention program and $10.8 million for sidewalk improvements throughout the city.



By Christopher Neely
Christopher Neely is Community Impact's Austin City Hall reporter. A New Jersey native, Christopher moved to Austin in 2016 following two years of community reporting along the Jersey Shore. His bylines have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Baltimore Su


MOST RECENT

The project is one of six that Travis County Commissioners Court on June 30 approved bond funding to support. (Community Impact Newspaper Staff)
Cascades at Onion Creek Apartments to bring affordable housing to South Austin

The development, partially financed by Travis County multifamily housing revenue bonds, will have over 200 income-restricted units.

Overall in Travis County there has been a total of 10,695 cases since mid-March.. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
Travis County adds 571 COVID-19 cases; new restriction put in place ahead of holiday weekend

Overall in Travis County there has been a total of 10,695 cases since mid-March.

The First Street Foundation's dataset includes a forecast models that anticipate the effects of climate change and sea level rise. (Screenshot via First Street Foundation)
Analysis: FEMA may be undercounting national total flood risk by as much as 70%

The new dataset includes an interactive Flood Factor dashboard that anyone can use to assess the risk of flooding over a 30-year period for any address.

A photo of a person wearing a medical mask
Travis County Judge supports state masking order, says county will enforce

After Gov. Greg Abbot's statewise mandate to wear masks that cover mouth and nose, Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe voiced his support.

A statue of Willie Nelson sits in front of ACL Live at the Moody Theater at the corner of Lavaca and Second streets.
Austin police will no longer arrest for low-level marijuana possession

Austin police will no longer arrest or issue citations for most marijuana possession offenses under 4 ounces.

Gov. Greg Abbott
Gov. Greg Abbott: Texans must wear masks in public starting July 3

"COVID-19 is not going away," Gov. Abbott said. "In fact, it is getting worse."

When interest rates are low, homeowners may look to save money by refinancing, which means getting a new mortgage with a better term or interest rate to lower payments. (Source: Matt Frankel/Community Impact Newspaper)
'Refinancing isn't free:' How to navigate refinancing a mortgage

When interest rates are low, homeowners may look to save money by refinancing, which means getting a new mortgage with a better term or interest rate to lower payments.

Episcopal Health Foundation
Survey: Texans support emphasis on improving economy, safety, pollution to address overall health

“COVID-19 is clearly showing what Texans already know: the state needs to address underlying, non-medical conditions that have a dramatic impact on their health,” Episcopal Health Foundation President and CEO Elena Marks said.

In the course of a month, the number of patients admitted to the hospital due to COVID-19 has increased more than fivefold, according to Austin Public Health data. (Design by Shelby Savage/Community Impact Newspaper)
Deluge of new COVID-19 cases forces Austin-area health officials to limit testing, shift tracing strategy

Fighting antiquated fax machines and a sharp rise in the demand for testing, officials said contact tracers are not able to get in touch with residents quickly enough to prevent the spread of the virus.

A photo of a group of community members at a public hearing discussion
Construction begins on new fire and EMS station in Southwest Austin

As one of five new stations geared at improving citywide response times, the new station will serve the Sunset Valley and Travis Country communities.

CommunityCare Health Centers drive-up coronavirus testing site
CommUnityCare will no longer test asymptomatic people for COVID-19 as testing demand swells

CommUnityCare Health Centers is now only testing individuals who show symptoms, those who have a known exposure to the coronavirus or those with other existing health conditions.

The H-E-B Austin Symphony July 4th Concert & Fireworks will not take place this year due to concerns about the spread of the coronavirus. (Courtesy Ricardo Brazziel)
Read the latest on 4th of July celebrations in Central Texas

Area cities have canceled or modified their Independence Day events.